I remember seeing the Wired cover with Newt Gingrich and being mostly confused by it at the time because the social conservatism of the so called Republican Revolution. I identified Wired at the time with Bay Area leftists, largely conflating Silicon Valley and its evangelists with the progressive countercultural heads of the 1960s due to its geography. Over the years, I became convinced I was incorrect and that in fact there must have been some sort of entrenched conservatism that led to the celebration of free market ideology. Turner makes the case fairly convincingly in Chapter 6 that my initial hunch was at least partially correct, though before reading this book, it was hard to understand how countercultural veterans morphed into modern day libertarians. Turner demonstrates how the anti-bureaucratic rhetoric being pushed by the New Communalists dovetailed perfectly with the message being pushed by Gingrich and his colleagues. While that Congress is largely remembered for impeaching Clinton and inaugurating a rash of socially conservative reforms (most notably to welfare), they also picked up on the ideology of Reagan and Milton Friedman, pushing an agenda of nimbler, leaner deregulated America that followed the dictates of the free market. While Turner posits that the former New Communalists developed relationships with people like Gingrich due to an ideological kinship fomented by “market populism” it seems to me slightly more plausible that these alliances were just as likely to be materially motivated. In the burgeoning entrepreneurial model that was coming to comprise Silicon Valley, there was a need for startup capital that would lift many of the fledgling companies out of garages and into access to the financial markets that would allow them to grow into the mega-corporations many of them are today. For Turner, the notion of free consciousness, so ballyhooed by the New Communalists, gave way to the belief in the internet as the medium for realizing free, interconnected consciousness. This seemed to coincide neatly with the market populism being pushed by Gingrich and others who could themselves see the internet having adequately prepared the country to live out their fantasy of free economic exchange. It’s a compelling argument, but having read a little about how Silicon Valley grew into what it is today, the metaphor was indeed little more than a convenient rhetorical device to serve both the political actors and the V.C.s looking to grow their wealth unfettered by government interference. Later when Turner talks about how this unholy alliance led to the the Telecommunications Act, I think he’s on slightly firmer ground as it points to a very specific policy objective that benefited tech companies and points to the influence of a clear lobbying strategy.
When Turner describes the crafting of the Telecommunications Act as the magna carta of internet (de)regulation, he draws a parallel to Gingrich’s party’s Contract with America. (p. 231)
- What would effective resistance to this legislation as it was conceived have looked like, i.e. what would have been characteristics of a magna carta that led to an internet more favorable to the kind of people’s platform Taylor and others envisioned.
- Was the marriage of free market ethics and internet culture something that was more motivated by capitalistic reasons or true ideals seeking an elevation of societal consciousness?